Almost every week, it seems like a new Asian foot massage business opens up in town. It amazes me how these people can come together to start a fully staffed business in no time. There is no shortage or bad economy for them. Every time I see an ad for a grand opening for one of these, I wonder how I missed that link or why more cultures don’t come together in the same way to build on each other. I have wondered if these cultures do not have competition, discomfort, fear and fraud among themselves; that is, the energies that have held back so many other ethnic groups, including my own. They seem to appreciate that one person can have a dream for a business, but it takes more than that person to put it all together. I appreciate it too … and I give Asians a lot of credit for this essential trait.
So I was curious about this “foot massage business” and since I can’t always afford to get a massage, it seemed like an inexpensive option. After all, the Asian community is at the forefront of Oriental reflexology and therapeutic treatments, so it is very beneficial to have sessions from them; even if it’s just a “learning experience”. You need to indulge yourself here, that many of these companies have a track record or seem to have a connection to the porn industry. There are all kinds of stories of police arrests among other undercover operations across the state / country. Some are not “shy” about promoting their services and their advertisements can be found in cheap and / or free local magazines and newspapers. In fact, I know people, men and women (but especially men) who have been condescending and received their “happy pulls.” This indulgence is either an advantage or a disadvantage depending on who you are and what you are looking for in a massage. As a therapist, one has to decide whether or not he wants his profession to align with this for the sake of money, and / or whether to dignify his skill set and keep his profession honorable.
Every few weeks I see coupons in one of those coupon magazines that come with their junk mail, advertising 60 minute foot massages for $ 19.99. I thought, wow … that’s cheap … I wonder what they do in the 60 minutes … The ad stated that they added shoulder / back massage, head and hands with foot reflexology, and that there was the option to receive a full body massage for $ 35.00 using special herbal oils. So I called and told them I wanted to see them but didn’t make an appointment. I passed shortly after and looked through the glass doors. It was so dark that I could only see my own reflection. I opened the door and looked around, but maybe it was too bright outside for my eyes to quickly adjust to the darkness inside. After a few moments, a man came up to ask if he could help me. I looked around, said no, thanks and left. All those images of the “happy” men leaving that place next to the spa I used to work for in Studio City flooded my mind and I felt dirty for having entered … but eventually I would conquer this feeling so as to form my own opinions. What were the pros and cons of sponsoring a place like this?
My experience has shown the following combined “pros” and “cons” (not in any order of priority / importance):
1. It is strange to enter or leave these facilities, especially if you are a therapist.
2. Hardly anyone speaks English. This means that your therapist will not talk to you all the time.
3. Generally, you don’t want anyone to know you are there, so you turn off the phone.
4. It’s cheap! $ 15- $ 20 value! $ 35 for full body massage! … but you get what you pay for.
5. These places are usually convenient … right next to where you work, for example, so you don’t need to park your car right out front. Just drop it off at work or at the store across the street.
6. The staff are usually very attractive, like the people in nail salons.
7. It is quite dark inside, so you may not recognize others or be recognized.
8. You can give a false name and dress up.
9. You don’t take your clothes off unless you go to that “back room” for the “full body” massage.
10. The general environment embodies the culture of the staff.
11. Certifications and licenses are posted prominently in the “front lobby”.
12. They usually serve you right away and finish just in time.
13. The tip is essential! The therapist waits expectantly while you pay or collect your things.
14. General reflexology occurs in a large room with other clients doing the same with you.
15. Most of the prominently posted “Certifications” are copies of certifications and are not always CA certified (and it is unknown if they are real).
16. From a therapist’s point of view, the staff appears to have no more than 250 hours of training and in anything other than Shiatsu / Reflexology.
17. The staff is made up of men and women.
18. Be prepared for a staff member who has just arrived from a smoke break.
19. You have no other option for your assistant unless you’ve made reservations and asked for someone by name.
20. Most of the customers in these places appear to be white and / or not black.
21. I think the “foot soak” is just a pot of warm water, nothing more.
22. Everyone seems to be very tired and somewhat frustrated with their work.
23. If you are an athletic (muscular) woman, expect them to be extremely rude / rude (change assistant without notice and speak in their language with “dismissive gestures” while doing so) and don’t protest … they won ‘I don’t understand you and I will carry on. (My Asian colleagues have often asked me why I think I need to be so “muscular and tomboyish” … Culturally, they believe that women must be “thin but soft”, to attract and retain men. the muscular woman is too strong. This could be why the female assistants seem to opt out “and let the male assistants massage me. These men acted like I was a freak and didn’t treat me like a lady. I think that this is because I don’t seem to be as “soft” as they thought women should be).
24. I have seen men being served shirtless, but women shouldn’t try!
25. Women should not wear their sports bra or just a single tank top, hoping to get more back and shoulder action. They will simply cover you with a towel and continue with their “robot routine.”
26. Don’t ask them not to touch your face. They don’t understand it (unless you tell the customer service person that they could translate if they understand).
27. Women should wear comfortable clothing similar to yoga. Jeans, shorts, dresses, and skirts are not allowed. You’d think shorts would be fine, but I tried it and no … no … !!
28. Part of your routine is to “stretch” your legs, which from a therapist’s point of view is a stretch similar to Shiatsu to the “spinal twist” of yoga. Jeans are too tight and inflexible for this stretch and shorts can become like ropes strangling your groin and your treats, especially if you have a “very enthusiastic” male assistant. Mine seemed to have been looking for a particular reaction or to show its power. I felt like I was glad I had “conquered” me … the muscular and tomboyish woman … (but I knew that she wouldn’t understand my language if I complained, so I didn’t …)
29. There doesn’t seem to be any breaks between customers, so the staff is really very tired.
30. These businesses are open sometimes from 10 am to 10:30 pm in general, but you can find some that open later.
I have decided, based on my own observations and experiences, that I will no longer sponsor these establishments. My first objection is that we don’t speak the same language. When I say “that hurts”; “please don’t touch my head or my face”; or “I don’t want to be stretched like this”, these instructions / requests are met with a smile and nervous nods and they simply continue with their routine, or until someone comes to translate, which may be too late and / or cause a scene in this great room of service providers.
In my opinion, these are not legitimate massage therapists and give credit to those who believe that “anyone” can give a massage or do reflexology. They are in line with the other spa and franchise chains that are simply in the “money-making business,” not the “people, health, then money business.”
Legitimate bodyworkers, like me, are genuinely concerned about the health and well-being of their clients and people in general. We don’t “judge” you, which, in my experience, I think these places judged me.
When a person goes to get massages at any facility, they shouldn’t have to wonder if they are fat, skinny, muscular, black, short, tall, ugly, pretty or what not. Yes, in my particular business, clients will ask me about their health conditions and what I find while working on them. Some will ask for suggestions on which way to go to address a health problem. Sometimes I know and sometimes I don’t. Others regret trying to lose weight or gain weight or have low energy, or pain after a workout, etc, and yes, I have a background in nutrition and wellness as well as weight management / personal training and I have no problems making recommendations that know how to work. However, this is not generally the reason to enter.
Although I make recommendations on how to eat in the days after your massage session with me, this is simply to nourish the affected organs in your session and prolong your therapeutic results. The ultimate goal is for your health to improve, which will happen with your consistency in going to treatment and following the suggestions. Yesterday, a client told me that she considers my opinions / treatments on the level of her team of doctors. It was a sweet compliment and I believe him. She has seen results and experienced “my power” as she calls it, and it feels great that she has attracted someone so open and available to heal.
Above all, we receive massages because we believe that they are good for us and our health. They feel good and we want to feel good. The economy is definitely a concern, but we understand that we get what we pay for. People who frequent foot massage businesses and chain spas often make a financial decision, not necessarily a health-related decision. I would like to be sure that my therapist has had some training at an accredited school in the United States and is licensed and certified by the state or county in which I receive the service. I would also like to know that the establishment is honorable with labor rules and is in no way related to the porn industry. Finally, I would like to know that there are no prejudices; that everyone speaks the language that I speak; that my money is worth as much as any other employer, and that my spirit and my body will be honored in the professional rendering of the contracted service and for the improvement of my health and vitality.